Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Birthers are Just Crazy

Written 28 December, 2010

Birthers are Just Crazy

I usually manage to keep politics out of this blog, but a couple of things have triggered me.

First, on the heels of a New York Times story about  newly-elected Hawaii governor Neil Abercrombie's scathing comments about the efforts of birthers to prove U.S. President Barrack Obama was not born in the United States, MSNBC pontificator Chris Matthews has jumped into the fray, wanting to know why Obama hasn't asked Hawaii for the long form of his birth certificate.

Second thing: a once-sane friend has gone bathshit (no, that's not a typo!) t-party crazy, e-mailing me ever more bizarre conspiracy theories about the U.S. government in general and Obama in particular.

He says, for instance, that the much-despised TSA body scanners in the nation's airports are Obama's fault. True, they came into widespread usage during Obama's administration, but they were already deployed in 2007, meaning duh!, they were the product of the warped thinking of the Bush administration.

In his latest, my friend is claiming Obama is secretly gay. He was apparently the secret lover of Rahm Emmanuel in the Chicago bathhouses. No shit.

Give me a frigging break. I've seen in video the intimacy shared between Obama and Michelle. It's clear their relationship is a good one, and a sexual one. That can't be faked (Take, for instance, the strained body language of whackadoodle U.S. Senator John McCain and his Anheiser-Busch heiress wife. In video (it's not apparent in still photos), she has the deer-in-the-headlights look of an abused woman. McCain's temper is no secret (jeez, did you see him in the debates on the run-up to the Presidential election? And of course there's McCain's infamous in-front-of-reporters instance of verbal abuse, in which he calls Cindy the C-word). I  know he beats the shit out of her when they're alone. I just know it.


So, let's cut to some of Hawaii Governor Abercrombie's comments to the NYT:
“It’s an insult to his mother and to his father, and I knew his mother and father; they were my friends, and I have an emotional interest in that,” Governor Abercrombie said in a telephone interview late Thursday. “It’s an emotional insult. It is disrespectful to the president; it is disrespectful to the office.”

I just spent a half hour perusing increasingly wacko ramblings of birthers on the web. They spare no effort to deligitimize Obama.

Birthers are even floating bizarre theories about the CIA somehow retroactively inserting a fake birth announcement in Hawaii's two major newspapers. No kidding. But, you know, there are people who remember Obama's birth, and, yes, in Hawaii, so clearly all this birther brouhaha is just wingnut fodder.

Imagine it's 1961. Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, and his father, Barack Obama, Sr. are talking. Little do they realize dentist-lawyer-real estate agent-Zsa Zsa Gabor wannabe Orly Taitz has traveled back in time and slipped a microphone beneath their pillows in (of course) Kenya.


What will we call him?

Well, we could give him your name.




What about a middle name?

Hmmmm, you know, according to my Hitchhiker's Handbook to the Future Universe, there will be a much-feared and much-despised dictator in Iraq called Saddam Hussein.

You saying we should call him Saddam?

No, no, Hussein.

Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Hussein Obama. I like it.

You don't think those names will be a problem?

In the future? Naah. How could they be? No one would hold a child's name against him.

I get this uneasy feeling...

I do, think, though, just in case he should one day be President of the U.S, we should travel to Hawaii and insert birth announcements in all the papers.

Good idea.

So he will have been "born" in the U.S.


I know this guy called Abercrombie. He can help us.

But of course the baby will be born here in Kenya, right?

Of course.


I hate birthers. They are out of their frigging minds. And I'm sad my friend is now officially crazy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Illustrators and a Word on Shel

Marooned Pirate
Howard Pyle
Written 22 December, 2010


I don't know why I got into the recent dissertations on illustrators. I know it was triggered by my learning of the death of John Callahan, but the rest? I suppose it's because for most of us, visual artists affect us. I just wanted to share.

I always thought of myself primarily as a written word person. When, at age six or seven, I read comic books, I paid more attention to the words than to the pictures. Or so I thought. I belatedly came to realize just how important the visuals were.

There are so many artists who have affected me. All the painters-- from Da Vinci and Michelangelo and Botticelli, to Monet and Manet and Degas and Gaugin, to Goya and Picasso and Dali, to the Wyeths and Charles Russell and J.M.W. Turner. So many names to drop, so little time!

And then the illustrators! Aubrey Beardsley and Maxfield Parrish and Howard Pyle; Frank Frazetta and Nick Adams and Carl Barks; Harvey Kurtzman and John Buscema and Bernie Wrightson; R. Crumb and Gilbert Shelton and Bill Griffith. And of course, Charles Addams, Gahan Wilson, and Charles Rodrigues.

And perhaps my all-time favorite, Shel Silverstein. I'll resist writing a post about this good-humored jack-of-all-arts (at least for now), but I will point you here for a read Shel would have loved.

Charles Rodrigues

Written 22 December, 2010

Charles Rodrigues

I was a huge fan of National Lampoon magazine in its earlier years.

I loved the dark satire of the magazine. It was intelligent and engaging, and, usually, outrageous.

Remember the floating Beetle ads of the early 70s?

The Lampoon caused outrage with this parody:

The text reads, in all apparent sincerity:

It floats.
The way our body is built, we'd be surprised if it didn't.
The sheet of flat steel that goes underneath every Volkswagen keeps out water, as well as dirt and salt and other nasty things that can eat away at the underside of a car. So it's watertight at the bottom.
And everybody knows it's easier to shut the door on a Volkswagen after you've rolled down the window a little. That proves it's practically airtight on top.
If it was a boat, we could call it the Water Bug.
But it's not a boat, it's a car.
And, like Mary Jo Kopechne, it's only 99 and 44/100 percent pure.
So it won't stay afloat forever. Just long enough.
Poor Teddy.
If he'd been smart enough to buy a Volkswagen, he never would have gotten into hot water.
Check out the first couple of comments on this blogpost.
The Lampoon featured work by some of my favorite artists. Here's a Gahan Wilson cover:

And here's one by Frank Frazetta:

And one by Edward Gorey:
(Click on the images to see them in all their glory.)

And then there were a number of covers by this guy:

"This guy" was Charles Rodrigues. He took up where Chas Addams and Gahan Wilson left off.
I've not been able to find much info on Rodrigues on the web, but this site notes:
Charles Rodrigues was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He drew the newspaper comic 'Casey the Cop' in the 1970s. He was also a magazine cartoonist for Stereo Review and the National Lampoon for many years and was syndicated with the Chicago Tribune. Another cartoon character created by Rodrigues is 'Charlie'.
I own Rodrigues' Total Harmonic Distortion, a compilation of his cartoons for Stereo Review. Here's a good one. Audiophiles will understand:

I also have Rodrigues' work (all of it, I think since I have almost all the issues) for National Lampoon.
It was in the pages of the Lampoon that Rodrigues could be his sickest. This image is from May, 1977:

Here's a great article about this disturbing layout.
Rodrigues could and often did go waaaay out there. No subject was sacred (quote from link just above):
Charles Rodrigues was a cartoonist for almost the entirety of National Lampoon’s history. His strips were weird, and often very gross. He would do the most awful things featuring dwarves, Siamese twins, amputees, corpses, abortions, people in a coma communicating through farts. The king of bad taste, but I’m afraid I really do like him. He also played around with the form quite boldly. Sometimes he would be half-way through a strip in an issue, get bored, kill everyone off and start a new strip, there and then.
For me, Rodrigues' most disturbing-- and funniest-- comics were the ones in which he lampooned the disabled. I remember a National Lampoon series in which he took on the disabled. 
I've chosen not to show some of Rodrigues' more disturbing disability-related cartoons-- but here's a panel from his Aesop Brothers cartoon in National Lampoon:
I have to say, the National Lampoon, and in particular Charles Rodrigues, completed my descent into cartoon depravity.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gahan Wilson

Written 21 December, 2010

Gahan Wilson

A few years later when I came across the work of an even more macabre cartoonist-- Gahan Wilson.

It was my junior or senior year of high school, and I rifled through a stack of my brother's Playboy magazines.

I was immediately entranced. I saw beyond the foldout and the pictures of half-dressed women to Hugh Hefner's -- and the magazine's-- philosophy of personal freedom-- and I saw the cartoons of Gahan Wilson.

I found some of Playboy's other cartoons overworked (too-many, too-simiilar): Buck Brown's Granny, for instance (although some of Brown's other cartoons were more than clever). I liked the work of many of the other regular cartoonists (Erich Sokol, Eldon Dedini, Phil Interlandi, for instance: Google them). But the work of Shel Silverstein and Gahan Wilson impressed me.

Shel Silverstein was a multitalented songwriter, artist, and cartoonist, and warrants a post or two himself-- but this one is about Wilson.

Gahan Wilson was born in 1930 in Evanston, Illinois. For more than half a century, his cartoons have been published in Playboy, The New Yorker, Colliers, and assorted other magazines.

Wilson is also a writer; he contributed a short story to Harlan Ellison's anthology of speculative fiction, Again, Dangerous Visions and wrote movie and book reviews for science fiction magazines.

 Wilson is still going strong at age 80. Here's a recent interview by Christopher Irving with a great photo by Seth Kushner.

I thought Wikipedia's comparison of the art of Wilson and Charles Addams was illuminating. Here's a quote with links intact:
Wilson's cartoons and illustrations are drawn in a playfully grotesque style and have a dark humor that is often compared to the work of The New Yorker cartoonist and Addams Family creator Charles Addams. But while both feature vampiresgraveyards and other traditional horror elements in their work, Addams' cartoons are gothic, reserved and old-fashioned, while Wilson's work is more contemporary, gross and confrontational, featuring atomic mutants, subway monsters and serial killers. It could be argued that Addams' work was probably meant to be funny without a lot of satirical intent, while Wilson often has a very specific point to make.
Wilson certainly did make his point. Here's one of my favorite cartoons:

"I think we won."
When I was in college, my attention (prepared by the work of Charles Addams and Wilson) had turned to the early issues of National Lampoon magazine.There, Wilson's cartoon strip Nuts was regularly published. It was clear Wilson wished to portray remembered childhood without the usual romanticism:

Much of the time, however, I think Wilson was just having fun. Here's my absolute favorite. It no doubt served as inspiration for the insane Eye-Gor robot up at our robot sanatorium:

You can read more about Gahan Wilson at his website, here.

Charles Addams

Written 21 December, 2010

Charles Addams

In my previous post, dear reader, I said I would talk about three more cartoonists I liked.

When I was in high school I spent long hours in the library at the air force base near my parents' home in Tennessee. There I discovered science fiction, and there I discovered the macabre work of Mr. Addams.

I loved the tone of the Addams books. They were full of sinister characters and creatures, blended seamlessly into modern life.

Many of the single-panel cartoons had been published in The New Yorker, a magazine with which I was then unfamiliar. His work appeared regularly in that magazine from 1932 until his death. His cartoons also appeared in Colliers and Reader's Digest.

Addams was born in 1912 and died in 1988. He was a descendant of the family that begot U.S. Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams and was first cousin twice removed to social reformer Jane Addams. 

In 1964 the signature family in Addams' works came to live on the American television show The Addams Family. Later, of course, there were movies.

Addams' work had a strong effect on my young mind. It was perhaps my first exposure to someone with a sense of humor that matched mine.

Well, there had been Mad magazine, of course, but even at age nine or ten I found its humor horribly juvenile.  In a good way, but still...

Had it not been for Addams, I might not have been prepared for the work of Gahan Wilson.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

"Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot!"

Written 19 December, 2010

"Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot!"

I recently discovered cartoonist, musician, and artist John Callahan had passed away. He died 24 July of complications from surgery. He was 59 years old.

Callahan became a quadriplegic at age 21. He was barhopping with a friend who crashed his car.

Afteward, he became a cartoonist. He held his pencil with both hands. His visual style was shaky and sometimes simplistic, compared to that of James Thurber, and his humor was dark, often dealing with taboo subjects.

 Wikipedia notes that his work has been compared to that of Charles Addams, Gahan Wilson, and Charles Rodrigues. That analysis is spot-on. I own books by all three (and one by Callahan), and I had already noted the similarity of theme.

I'll do a post to follow about Addams, Wilson, and Rodrigues. I'm sure you'll recognize their work.

Callahan's politically incorrect cartoons offended the sensibilities of some critics, but disabled people loved his work.

Callahan was also a musician, with one album released-- Purple Winos in the Rain. Two animated television series carry his work to a video audience: Nickeloden's Pelswick...

... and the Canadian-Australian production Quads.

Callahan's most famous cartoon is reproduced at the top of this blog.

I was sad to read of Callahan's death, first, because I admired him, and second, because he once illustrated one of my short stories when it appeared in a national magazine.

So here's to you, John Callahan. You lived life on your own terms, not letting your disability slow you down, and you left a body of work for which you will be remembered. And wherever you are, I know...

... you won't get far on foot.

Hair Candles

Written 19 December, 2010

Hair Candles

Last week (the exact date of us happening is in some dispute) marked the fourth anniversary of the epic union of Sweetie and myself.

I took her to Illusions-- they make great masks-- and bought her this wreath. It makes snuggling a big scary, but it's worth it.

Water Reflections

19 December, 2010

Water Reflections

Usually water reflections give too hard a hit to my video card, but I took these shots the other day. The sim is Whimsical Mischief.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Because Vampire Horses Are Just a Fact of Second Life

Okay, This Is Just Wrong!

Written 16 December, 2010

Okay, This Is Just Wrong!

Last night I modified a free watermelon gun to fire fruitcakes. Then I made targets; when you hit them, the make a metallic sound and go blank for ten seconds.

The targets? Santa, a Christmas Tree, and a reindeer, of course.

It's hard to shoot all the targets before the first-killed ones pop back up.


I spent Christmas shooting Santa Claus
With fruitcakes shot in mouselook from a gun
I really like to creep
Up on him like a thief
He made a happy noise
He thought I wanted toys
I reloaded and I shot Santa Claus
I watched him fall, then shot poor Rudolph, too
Oh what fun it would have been
If Jesus could have seen
Me shooting Santa Claus last night

Yes, that's a giraffe in the background. The darn things are everywhere!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Blog Milestone

Written 15 December, 2010

A Blog Milestone

Tonight I was putting together the post just before this one and Google informed me I had reached the limit of free storage space for photos-- 1 GB.

Now, I've been writing this blog for four years. I've made more than 1600 posts, almost every one of which has multiple high-resolution photos. It's amazing I got free photos for such a long time.

Google informed me I could buy 5 GB of additional storage space for photos for just $5 a year.

I took the plunge. I figure that so long as I renew annually I'm good for about 7000 posts. If I keep posting at the same rate I'll run out of storage space around 2035.

Google did wreck a post further down the page, though. All the photos are oddly truncated. I'll fix it tomorrow. It's late and I'm going to bed.

Have a Very Explosive Christmas

The field of battle. Each snow fort is equipped
with a cannon, two mortars, and a pile of snowballs
Written 15 December, 2010

Have a Very Explosive Christmas

So, today, having nothing better to do, I made a Christmas mortar. It fires exploding Santa hats.

The mortars differ from the fruitcake cannon in that the shells explode.The smoke is first red (it being Christmas, and all)

A shell has just exploded. Note the flying Santa hat.
It will explode when it lands.
The smoke turns green and then dissipates.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Whimsy Souvenir Coin

Written 13 December, 2010

Whimsy Souvenir Coin

That's Bob (Heads) and Mr. Tiki (Tails).

Whimsy Souvenir Coin Masher

What Could Chey Be Looking At?
Written 13 December, 2010

Whimsy Souvenir Coin Masher

I've always been a sucker for those machines, found in truck stops and gift shops, that will, for fifty cents or a dollar,  mash your penny into a souvenir.

Here's an ugly machine:

I like this one a lot better:

I like it so much, in fact, that I kept it in mind when making a penny masher for Whimsy.

When you pay the machine $1L, the lever at the left stops with a clang (you can hear the penny dropping), wheels turn, and the press descends upon the penny...

... mashing it into your souvenir...

The newly-minted coin pops into the chute at the bottom of the machine...

.. and the machine gives you a copy.

When you wear the coin, your avatar gets a happy spinning animation:

You can get your souvenir coin here.